Six Calming Answers to Six Panicky Questions about High School English for Homeschoolers

Jun 15, 2015 | Posted by the IEW Blog Team

by Lee Binz

Teaching English in high school can be an anxious endeavor. We can’t think of anyone better to calm nerves than Lee Binz, founder of The Home Scholar. If you enjoy this article, you can also view the recordings of two recent webinars with Lee: “How to Count IEW Courses for High School Credit” and “A Homeschool Parent's Guide to Grades, Credits, and Transcripts.”


I get lots of questions from homeschool moms and dads, and many of them are about how to cover high school English. Let me answer all your burning questions and satisfy your desires for simple answers and easy-to-implement plans for next year. I promise it’s not complicated! You’ll feel confident as soon as you finish this short article!

1. What is high school English, anyway?

English class is the study of communication skills in our language. There are three basic communication skills involved: writing, reading, and speaking. Each English class can focus on just one, two, or all three skills:

  1. Writing skills can include spelling, grammar, vocabulary, punctuation, penmanship, composition, reports, poetry, and prose.
  2. Reading skills can include reading (for fun and school, including fiction, non-fiction, and poetry), reading aloud, reading speed, and reading comprehension.
  3. Speaking skills can include public speaking, speech, and debate.

2. What is required for high school students?  

Your student needs four English credits. Generally this means one credit per year of high school that includes writing and reading at your student’s level. An English credit means about an hour a day spent on writing activities. This might include video instruction, writing, worksheets, vocabulary study, writing in a journal, spelling, or grammar.

There are so many reasons your student needs good writing skills. Writing is important for college and career, job applications, and essay tests. Even as adults, we use our writing skills every day as we communicate with others. Daily practice will help skills improve.

Try to have your student spend about half an hour to an hour reading each day. It doesn’t matter how many books your student reads—six to sixty per year is normal.

3. What is a high school credit?

A credit is a measurement of how long and hard the student worked, at either high school age or high school level. High school credits can be counted by textbooks. For example, one math textbook equals one high school credit. But with subjects like English, there is usually no textbook involved. Instead, the credit can be measured by counting or estimating how many hours you spend on English.

As long as your student has completed between 120–180 hours or more while working on English, you can count the class as one whole high school credit. Don’t bother counting every five-minute interval; it’s much easier than that. Simply estimate the number of hours spent on instruction, practice, and work.

If your student works for about one or two hours per day a day on English over the course of the school year, five to ten hours per week, it will add up to one credit of high school English. Remember, that time includes reading, plus writing, plus any vocabulary or grammar workbooks, or time spent on other English skills.

4. How do I know it’s high school level?

Parents can get a little anxious about ensuring their student is grade level in English. Consider it high school level when your students are high school age. Your job is to keep their assignments challenging, so they keep learning. At the same time, the assignments should not be overwhelming, or your students won’t be able to keep up.

So purchase the English level that you think is a good fit for them. Your goal is to teach your students something new and help them practice until it becomes easier for them. If you ask your students to do something they can’t possibly do, they will have trouble. Eventually, they may lose confidence, lose the love of learning, and end up hating to read and write. It’s better to meet your students below grade level than speed them through grade level so fast that they fail.

Ultimately, choosing the appropriate curriculum for their ability is the best choice for high school English.

5. How do I calculate grades?

Not all subjects include tests, even in high school. In English, it’s important to guide a student and provide feedback on what he has written. Tests aren’t always helpful for English, but you still need to provide a grade on your high school transcript.

To do that, you can estimate your student’s performance. There are lots of ways to estimate grades, but these are my low-stress grading suggestions:

  1. “A” This is a 4.0, which means your student demonstrates mastery and meets your high expectations. It can also mean the child loves the subject, and the parent is pleased with his performance.
  2. “B” This is a 3.0, which indicates your student did pretty well. You are confident it was not worth an A, and you might even be slightly annoyed with his performance.
  3. “C” This is a 2.0, meaning the student really didn’t do very well. You may be really annoyed and perhaps disappointed, but you kept going to the next level the following year.

6. How do I accommodate for special learning styles? 

Every child is unique. Homeschoolers have the freedom to teach to their level. When your children are outside the “norm,” whether they’re struggling learners or gifted learners, your focus should remain the same.

Focus on learning. You want your student to learn the skills involved in the subject. Students who are high school age earn high school credit when they’re in high school.

Think about it. If your struggling learner were in public school, every class would be on his high school transcript, even if he were working below grade level. Everything he achieved in high school would appear on his transcript. It’s the same for our homeschool. High school age students earn high school credit, no matter what their level.

Ultimately, teaching English boils down to teaching the ability to communicate verbally and in writing and to absorb what they read. These skills are so important for college and for adult life!

Lee’s mission is to encourage and equip parents to homeschool through high school. You can find her online at or on Facebook at

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